A couple of Lucky Khaos, out to graze

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You know Lucky Khao, don’t you? It’s at the bottom of St Jame’s Street, Kemptown. It used to be called Pike and Pine? It does great coffee during the day under the guise of Redroaster?

Ah, there you go! You do know it. It changed from a Great Gatsby era frock into its South East Asian outfit at the beginning of 2019 and we’re here to give it a first birthday MOT. That’s the academic stuff out of the way, here are all the (very) tasty details.

Featured image and all further images © Joanna Kennelly

Lucky Khao has a misleading frontage, narrow and unremarkable (hence why I clarified their existence above). Once you’re inside you quickly realise that the entrance can only hint at what is to come behind the neon red lettering above the door.

We were placed front and centre – facing the open kitchen on high chairs – and hosted by two or three very attentive staff members, who would remain so throughout our two hour sitting. The midriff-high marble bar was a perfect blend of top-end Wetherspoon pub and a beauty parlour powdering surface. It frames the whole restaurant floor, aids the theatre of the fish-bowl live cooking and is worth the visit alone, if you’re into that type of thing.

First came drinks: a refreshing lemongrass Caipirinha cocktail which my plus one stuck with all night and a crisp lager for me. The refreshments were the perfect foil for an explosion of flavour which started with limey crab wraps, sticky rice, white corn ribs with coconut cream and crunchy pak choi.

So many small plates were plonked in front of us I may have missed a couple. The highlight from the first batch was without doubt the corn; it seems to be in vogue at the moment, so much so that I keep seeing naked rinds discarded in the street like evidence from a crime scene. But although familiar, this take on the classic was particularly special. Large thumbs of meaty corn smeared with the most delicious cream of coconut. All finger food and good fun to grab at – the same way you would dip pitta bread in hummus. Good value too at £7.70.

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Moving into the middle third of the dining experience we were advised to try the Sam-Rod Whole Fish – which does what it says on the tin and more. It is something of a house favourite and it proved to be one of the stand outs which will make me return to Lucky Khao. A whole sea bass, curled around a dinner plate, so generous was the portion it looked like it could flip and flop back off to the kitchen at any moment.

Before that could happen we both scrutinised the accompaniments: hot chilli, sweet onion, fresh mint and a sweet and sour Gastrique for a bed. Tucking into fork-loads of fleshy white protein and authentic Asian flavours, we each took a flank of the fish and it was devoured in minutes. Piranha-like.

To wrap up, there would be no room for a dessert, we were served (once more against our will) the preferred choice and personal favourite of a young chef learning his trade in the kitchen. A poached cod dish, diced, hot and sloppy. We watched him delicately put the finishing touches to his pretty broth. We then spooned our way towards the finish line, soaking up the soup with scraps of the ten or so dishes which came before it.

There was just time for a selfie or two against the dazzling wall tiles and weeping foliage which characterise this space so well. The heady mix of spice and aromatics, coupled with the 3 rounds of drinks, made us turn to talk of trips away next year. To South East Asia, of course. I’m sure a lot of you reading this may have designs on doing the same. There is no better place to go and stick pins into a map than Lucky Khao.

 

Thanks to the wonderful Maddy, Flora and all the staff at Lucy Khao.

Lucky Khao are open Tuesday to Thursday 5pm–11pm and Friday to Saturday 4pm–12pm. All information about reservations and Christmas menus can be found at www.luckykhao.com.

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